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Navy threatening to ‘walk away’ from government's scheme to reduce small-boat crossings

THE navy is reportedly threatening to “walk away” from the government’s scheme to reduce small-boat crossings, just three months after it was put in charge of the English Channel.

Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel put the military in command of operations to prevent asylum-seekers reaching Britain in small boats in mid-April.

Since then, it is understood that 250-300 military personnel have been deployed on busy days to police refugees in the English Channel.

But military chiefs are said to be fed up with carrying out the government’s plan, according to today’s Observer. 

Speaking to the newspaper, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, which has completed an inquiry into the use of the military in the Channel, said: “I know the MoD [Ministry of Defence] really wants to walk away from this, wants this to conclude. 

“There’ll be less political pressure now. The Prime Minister is going.

“From my personal perspective, I can say this is a complete waste of naval time. The navy is already overstretched.”

The paper also reported that in the three months since the navy took over the operation in the Channel, crossings have almost doubled compared with the period between January and March 2022, suggesting the policy has failed its stated aim, which is to deter asylum-seekers from trying to reach Britain by sea. 

The defence committee’s inquiry heard evidence from naval commanders claiming that the use of the military could encourage boat crossings by making them safer. 

The MoD said the arrangement was likely to stay in place until early next year. 

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government is united in tackling illegal migration and saving lives. To suggest otherwise is misleading and incorrect.”

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